CALGARY, ALBERTA – The wait was long for Michael Keranen to get called to the show. He'll have to wait longer to play his first NHL game.
The 25-year-old rookie took warmups Wednesday night, but he didn't make his NHL debut against the Calgary Flames because veteran Thomas Vanek declared himself OK to play despite a lower-body injury.
Wild coach Mike Yeo indicated earlier Wednesday that Keranen's debut was likely dependent on the status of Vanek, whose injury that he has been playing through worsened against Vancouver on Monday.
"The way I look at it, if I can deal with the pain and still contribute, then I'll play. But if I feel I can't help the team, I think it's better if a different guy plays," Vanek said after the morning skate.
Keranen, one of the Finnish Elite League's top scorers a season ago, signed as a free agent with the Wild in June. He showed flashes of skill and hockey sense in training camp, but the Wild sent him to AHL Iowa to adapt to the North American game. He is Iowa's second-leading scorer with 32 points in 52 games and leads with 23 assists. Last year with Ilves Tampere in Finland, Keranen tied for the SM-Liiga scoring title with 52 points in 52 games and won the Lasse Oksanen Award as "the best player during the regular season."
"It's a different game in North America," Keranen said. "Smaller rink here and the game is a little different. It takes time and now I feel pretty comfortable."
Said Jim Mill, the Wild's director of minor league operations, "I think the pace of game, because he doesn't have as much room, that's where he's had to adapt and he has."
After using a top line recently of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville, Yeo split them up so Calgary couldn't have top pair defensive Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie on the ice against them every shift. Parise began the game with Mikael Granlund and Jordan Schroeder, while Nino Niederreiter skated with Koivu and Pominville.
Parise says in a perfect world, he'd love every season to be like 2008-09 when he played every New Jersey Devils game with Travis Zajac and Jamie Langenbrunner. He scored a career-high 45 goals and 94 points.
"You develop familiarity and it would be ideal, but that just doesn't happen," Parise said.
Keranen was recalled over Iowa leading scorer Tyler Graovac, who has played three scoreless games for the Wild, because the Wild needed a winger, not a center, if Vanek couldn't play.
"Tyler is a real young kid in the middle of his second year and having success," Mill said. "We've got to be careful with this kid's development. We can't have him up and down on a yo-yo right now. In fact, I had a conversation with him the other day. Not that he needed an explanation because he's that good a kid, but I wanted him to understand why he may see guys like Stephane Veilleux and Brett Sutter and Keranen going up over him."
Mill said: "There were times at the end of last year where [Graovac] was the best player on the ice. This year, that has continued and we want him playing big minutes and having a lot of responsibilities to generate offense."
Salute to Suter
Saturday night, the 19 surviving members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team will be in Lake Placid, N.Y., for the first time together since winning the gold medal. The 35th anniversary celebration will conclude with Bob Suter's jersey being raised to the rafters.
Suter, the father of Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, died of a heart attack in September.
"It's nice," Ryan Suter said. "They had a get-together scheduled, so it would have been nicer for him to be a part of that. It's definitely going to be something special for our family, though."